Monday, 22 June 2015

The 1814 Campaign

The 1814 Campaign dissected.

Strategic situation
 France is on the defence and the Emperor Napoleon has ordered a French Corps to defend towns which lead directly to Paris. These are Reims, Soissons, Sezanne and Provins. The Bavarians have remained loyal to the Emperor but the Prussians from the north, the Russians from the east and the Austrians from the south are all closing in on Paris. The map used was the Napoleon at Bay map from the Avalon Hill series and cost about £30 to buy, plus a bit more to have it laminated. 

Unbeknown to the Allies the French had static spies  (pre-set from the beginning) in Sens, St Dizier, Epernay, Laon and Noyon. This was to represent “fighting on home soil” and was also designed to prevent the Allies sneaking round the edges of the map, which would have been unrealistic and might have given them an unfair advantage. The French could discuss progress as a team with a centralised command structure while the Allies were forbidden to consult unless their units actually met on the map. Even then information was delayed and little detail given.

DAY 1.

The French.
The umpire allocated start positions to 60% of the French army. However the 1st Infantry Division (2 brigades of Old G, 1 brigade of Middle G, and 1 brigade of Young G) as well as the 1st Cav Division (3 brigades, 1 heavy, 1 medium, and 1 light) could be given their start positions (not within 10 hexes of the edge of the map) by the French team and it was decided that these should straddle the Sommesous to Vitry le Francois road south of Chalons-sur-Marne while the cavalry were concentrated just north of Sommesous towards Vatry. Other units were spread out and brigades (acting as garrisons) were to defend the towns of Provins, Sezanne, Reims and Soissons. No units were allocated to defend Paris or west of the Provins/Soissons line. 

The French plan.
Wait for the Russians to cross the river Marne at the Vitry le Fancois bridge and crush them with overwhelming forces. Success or failure the French were to fall back to Paris.

The Prussians.
The Prussians approached from the north-east and the umpire allocated all start positions and units moved towards Rethel and Vouziers.
The Prussian plan.
To take and hold Reims and then move west and take and hold Soissons.

The Russians.
The Russians were approaching from the east in two columns. One moving towards Chalons-sur-Marne and the other was already in St Dizier moving towards Vitry le Francois.
The Russian plan.
To move north-west, link up with Prussian forces and take Reims. There was never any intention to cross the bridge at Vitry le Francois.

The Austrians.
The Austrians began moving on move 3 as they had been delayed by poor weather over-night. Their whole column was approaching Troyes.
The Austrian plan.
To provide a cavalry screen to the north / north-east, shielding their main body advance which was to head towards Sens and ultimately Paris in a left flanking manoeuvre.

Moves 1-4

Prussian forces moved on Reims. French engineers wasted no time to trying to blow the two bridges.  The Russians by-passed the bridge at Vitry le Francois and moved towards Chalons-sur-Marne where the French quickly blew the bridge. French units watched the Russians move north-west. The spy in St Dizier giving vital information as to what units had passed through this town. The Austrians moved to Troyes and then moved west towards Sens but once in Sens the French knew what was coming. (that spy again!)

Moves 5-8.

The Prussians attacked Reims across the one bridge that was still available to cross, only one having been blown. A Prussian horse battery managed to prevent the French engineers from fully completing their task. The first Prussian attack was unsuccessful but the second attack, spear headed by Otto von Pennitz secured a foot hold in Reims and street fighting ensued. Finally by the end of move 8, Reims had fallen, with Russian units preventing any escape to the south-west.. One whole French brigade, including engineers and a foot battery was now in the bag. The Div C and Brigade C both shot themselves.
The warning signs for the French were there and it was not until move 5 that The French Corps commander had reluctantly admitted that a quick victory over the Russians was now unlikely and that a rapid withdrawal west to prevent the Austrians taking Paris was vital.

Opportunities missed? Easy to say for the umpire of course but there were perhaps two. One for each side. The Russian column moving north from Vitry le Fancois had become strung out and the three Russian brigades of infantry at the rear had become detached because their protecting cavalry had raced ahead. Would the French (who knew their dispositions and movement) take a risk and cut them off? It might well have worked. The Russian C-in-C was more than 10 hexes from those units that could have been called back to help. Only one Russian brigade of cavalry could have got back to help while the French had both their Guard cavalry brigade and a heavy brigade available within one hour’s reach from engaging the Russians. A risk yes and attacking across a single bridge not easy but a gamble worth taking? Perhaps. The forward French light cavalry brigade at the bridge with two horse batteries would have pinned the Russian infantry early on and their two horse batteries would have done some damage. French infantry moving across the bridge might have finished the job. But attacking across a single bridge….? Not for the faint hearted.
The other concerned the Austrians. Had the forward Austrian heavy cavalry brigade that was in hex 1747 at the end of move 7 not slowed and gone straight for Paris there was little (nothing in fact) to stop it. The French had a brigade of cavalry racing back but the Austrians had 2 more light cavalry scouting regts that would have been able to direct the heavy brigade along the least well defended road to Paris. But not even the veteran Austrian commander could believe that the French would take such a risk.

Moves 9-10 and end of Day 1.

The Prussians secured Reims but to do this effectively it was felt that a whole division of three brigades would be required. The French had successfully blown both bridges north of Soissons so the Prussians main body was forced to go “the long way round” via Laon and Noyon. Russian forces concentrated overnight south of Reims with cavalry brigades moving west towards Soisson before nightfall.
The French moved several cavalry brigades west to try block any danger of Paris falling prematurely. The bulk of the infantry including all 4 Guards brigades concentrated around Sezanne. The Austrians kept a strong screen of cavalry south-west of Provins while the main body of infantry moved towards Montereau, their engineers blowing bridges to the rear of the column as they went.

DAY 2.

The French plan.
To block the Austrians (and any other late Allied arrivals) taking Paris with one force and another force to hold Provins/Sezanne.

The Prussian plan.
 The cavalry were to race ahead via Compeigne and head south to Paris. The infantry to follow on.

The Russian plan.
To take and hold Soissons and then move on to Paris.

The Austrian plan.
Largely unchanged from Day 1. To move north-west and attempt to take Paris.

Moves 11-14.
The Prussians began their flanking move while Russian Cossack forces entered Soissons only to find that the town had been deserted. So a second objective had now been taken for the Allies. The bulk of the French army halted in and around Sezanne. The Allies were still unaware as to where the French main body lay. The Austrians, keen to maintain a strong screen resisted a French attempt to force a passage west at Nangis.

The battle of Nangis.
French 7th brigade comprised 6 bns of conscripts plus a foot battery with 3 light cavalry regts up against 2 Austrian heavy cavalry regts plus HA battery supported by 2 light cavalry regts. The Austrians had better quality units and better commanders overall. The subsequent cavalry clash resulted in the French light cavalry withdrawing having had their 4th Chasseurs wiped out. The French infantry (now without cavalry support) were forced into square where their gunners also sought refuge.
Why the French chose to attack here is still a mystery. The French knew they had light cavalry up against heavy cavalry. The Austrians knew that the French cavalry was either light or medium and yet the French still chose to attack.

 The French were re-enforced by a lone light cavalry regt which had been forced back by an Austrian cavalry brigade coming from Nogent-sur-Seine. This Austrian unit trotted straight through Provins, taking this objective, although only briefly as it had orders to hit the French force in the rear. The opportunity for the French brigade to fall back to Provins (probably leaving its artillery behind) was now lost. Austrian light cavalry moved to both the north and south of the French 7th Brigade to complete its encirclement. The final outcome was all too predictable. One French light cavalry regiment got away. The rest was either destroyed (2 battalions of infantry and 2 regts of light cavalry) while the rest surrendered. The Austrians suffered one light cavalry regiment being destroyed but all in all it was a resounding Austrian success and prevented this brigade from moving west to help defend Paris.

Meanwhile the race was on for Prussian and Russian units to get as far west as possible. Russian units moved more cautiously as their southern/left flank was more exposed to a counter attack. Had there been more Russian light cavalry in those areas it would have become apparent that there was little or no French forces to threaten them. The Austrians still had their work cut out to take Paris before nightfall. Were there enough hours left in Day 2 for either the Russians or Prussians to make an impact and help the Austrians in taking this objective? Would the French take the initiative and move west with the Guard units, pin down the Austrians and defeat them, while the Russians and Prussians were still too far away to make an impact?

A ceasefire was announced before move 15 could take place as the final Battle for Paris drew nearer.

The units that would take part in this final phase would be:

Infantry: B9, B10, B11 brigades including one foot battery.
                B5 brigade would arrive shortly. (with the only engineers who could help blow up bridges and build redoubts)
None of these units were Guard. All the best French infantry was in and around Sezanne.
Cavalry: C3 Heavy (shown as B3 on the map/error), C5 Medium + 1 HA batt, C6 Medium and C9a light cavalry (this unit included two vital Polish HA batteries) and C9b+c.

Prussian cavalry only. C1, C3, C4 and C5. No infantry would get there on time.

Russian infantry: B1 (Guard), B2
Russian cavalry, C1 and C5. (Cossacks)
Virtually their whole force, except for 1 light cavalry regt. This included 6 brigades of infantry and 4 brigades of cavalry. The Austrians were low in cavalry from the start.

So the Allies were strong in the south with infantry and strong in the north with cavalry. But taking Paris in 15 moves would be a hard slog. Superior Allied artillery might be the critical factor.


The task for the Allies was to take 5 out of the 9 available buildings representing Paris by move 15. (or ensure a minimum of 5 out the 8 French brigades were either routed or in retreat by that time) I think this subsequent addendum was provided half way through the game when it became clearer that many Allied units would still be on the outskirts of Paris by move 15) Playing on a table of 17 x 9 feet inevitably takes a little time to move units across from one side to the other. The French were permitted a degree of flexibility in the initial deployment. Ross, John and Dave decided to concentrate their cavalry in the north and deploy two brigades of infantry, one in the southern sector of Paris and the other in the village of St Maur to the south-east of the capital and defend the river line to slow the Austrians. Their two remaining brigades of infantry supported by some reasonable cavalry would just have to slug it out against a large Prussian cavalry presence and take on some quality Russian infantry and cavalry at the same time.

Crossing the northern stream proved a problem for Neil, the Prussian commander. The two Polish horse batteries proving a real obstacle to Prussian progress. 

The Polish horse batteries can be seen in the top left hand corner. One infantry battalion blocked the bridge in square formation. Prussian horse artillery began to inflict damage on this solitary unit.  The French 5th brigade was the only French unit not permitted to “relocate” to an alternative (safer) position as it had only just arrived from the east in time, shadowed by Prussian light cavalry all the way. The 5th brigade detached the engineers who raced back to Paris in order to blow whichever bridges they could lay their hands on in time; other engineers having already been captured by Austrian forces the previous day. The remaining units occupied the village of Aucnay but were almost immediately under pressure from Russian infantry and supporting guns.

An opportunity for the French 3rd Cavalry Cuirassier brigade to hit a Cossack brigade in the flank was missed (the Cossacks were well supported by Russian Guard Cuirassiers so one can understand the hesitation and a genuine fear of a counter-attack) and this crucial French brigade spent the remainder of the battle occupying a central position but unsure which way to go.

 In the end it engaged no one.

Further south, the Austrian 5th brigade, commanded by Ashley, attacked across the bridge against the Bavarian 11th brigade, who were defending St Maur but were repeatedly thrown back every time.

 Had the Austrians had more artillery support, this attack might have proved more fruitful. As it was, the Austrian artillery moved north-west towards Paris, sidestepping this blockage. The Bavarian 11th brigade, commanded by Jonathan, successfully held this position till the end. It was to prove the only crumb of comfort for the French defenders. The remaining Austrian Corps, commanded by Paul, headed west and various bridge crossings were attempted, some more successful than others. The image below shows the Austro-Hungarian 6th brigade. (Art Miniaturen figures)

The French 9th brigade (conscript) was given the task of defending the southern sector of Paris and this would include the village of Charenton and the bridges south of it. The HA battery from the French 5th cavalry brigade was detached to this sector and helped in keeping the Austrians, initially, at bay.

Back towards the north, the Prussian cavalry had at last begun to make its superiority in numbers begin to tell and the French in this sector, commanded by Ross, simply had no reserves to replace vital lost units. The French 5th infantry brigade, threatened by cavalry, was forced into square and took some punishment from Russian artillery. 

The French then threw an unfortunate 1D8 dice role and scored a modified -4 resulting in a failed brigade test** and a retreat with their backs to the Russian Guard infantry and Russian Cuirassiers. This coincided with the Allies winning the “initiative” and effectively having 2 moves on the trot and so the Russians threw themselves on the rear of the hapless French infantry The subsequent disaster, and the loss of all six battalions in one foul swoop, meant that holding a French line further west would simply not be possible. 

French dragoons did their best and  counter-attacked repeatedly and by the end most of the Prussian cavalry would not be there to fight another day. But Prussian aggression, had given the Russian commander, Mike, a smoother path.

The Russian advance was steady and relentless. In fact by the close the Russians were the only army not to suffer one single lost unit. It was only a matter of time before the Russian Guard would be knocking at the door of Paris itself.

In the south, the engineers from the French 5th infantry brigade at last (at the second attempt) blew the bridge in the southern sector of Paris. But it was too little too late. Austrian units were beginning to pour over other bridges as yet another French brigade, this time the 9th conscript brigade, commanded by Dave, crumbled.

So by the end it was an Allied victory, more on the basis of routed French units rather than taking any of Paris itself. The seeds had already been sown. Some of the French generals wondered what might have happened if they had been given a Guards brigade or even a little more in the way of artillery to add to the paltry one Bavarian foot battery.  So many quality French units left in Sezanne who saw no action throughout the campaign.

From left to right Neil (Prussians) Mike (Russians) Jonathan (French), Paul (Austrians) Dave (French) and Ross (French) Ashley not seen! (Austrians)

 Paris on the right with Aucnay on the left close to where the French 5th brigade disintegrated.

 Prussian light cavalry enter the streets of Paris.

French engineers finally manage to blow the bridge in the southern sector of Paris, as Austrian infantry approach.
Well done to Jonathan and the Bavarian 11th brigade for holding St Maur against successive Austrian attacks across the bridge. Disappointment that the one French heavy cavalry brigade was not put to greater use and congratulations to the Russian commander, Mike, for a cautious yet effective use of all three arms and losing no units in the process. All things said, the French did as well as could have been expected.

** The Brigade test explained: Instead of formal written orders, every brigade must pass a test to see if it is capable of executing orders. This lessens the reactive helicopter view of wargaming where players say “if you do that, I’ll do this”.

So, using a 1D8 follow the table below:

(must be taken at the start to every move)
C-in-C visible and within 60cm to the brigade commander. (+2 if C-in-C is adjacent)
For each neighbouring inf / cav brigade units within 18cm. (2 supporting brigades = +2)
Brigade is advancing.
X (varies)
Brigade commander’s rating. Excellent +2. Good +1. Average 0. Poor -1
X (varies)
Brigade rating. Guard +2, Light +1, Line 0, Militia / Line Cossack / Landwehr -1

X (varies)
No of units annihilated. Subtract number of red rings on the brigade commander.
X (varies)
% of casualties already lost. 25% = -1, or 50% = -3 or 75% = -6
X (varies)
Number of KILLS inflicted per unit in the previous move
Any enemy units within 36cm to the flank or rear. (excluding limbered artillery)
At least one unit within the brigade under artillery fire and has sustained KILLS.
Per unit in DISORDER.
+X (varies)
Throw 1D8

Brigade Command Test results (The result continues to apply until the next test is taken)
Pass test. Carry on as normal.
0-2 Hold
Brigade on HOLD orders for that move. No forward movement. No counter-charge by cavalry or infantry.
Units can change formation and fire. Infantry cannot form square but existing squares remain operational.
Can only melee if attacked.  Place a yellow ring on the brigade commander.
-1~ -3 Retire
Brigade must RETIRE ½ move, including artillery which must now limber up.  Infantry cannot form square. Existing squares no longer exist and become disordered, gaining a white ring. They are treated as being in column. Place an orange ring on the brigade commander.
-4~ -5 Retreat
Brigade must RETREAT ¾ move and face the rear.  Artillery to limber up.  If retreat is blocked by other friendly units, river, bridge (unblocked or blocked), or woods then all units must surrender. Same rules as above for squares.  Place a brown ring on the brigade commander.
-6 or <
Brigade removed….including any attached artillery.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Teddy bear fur and some Art Miniaturen 20mm A-Hungarian line infantry

Teddy bear fur is excellent as ground terrain for 20mm+. The fur shown is 15 feet long and 6 foot wide. It comes in a brown shade so a pale green/yellow mix followed by some even paler yellow/white mix gives great results. The original colour of the fur can just be glimpsed in the foreground and extreme right hand edge. 80% of the fur has been shaved off.

Been asked for more info on the teddy bear fur:
The actual fur was bought from a company in the Midlands (there are several) for about £90. It is called faux fur and comes in a lightish brown. I bought a battery powered electric hairdresser's shaving implement with different attachments (no 3 please sir) and shaved 80% of the fur off in a very random way. Doesn't take too long. Forget scissors. No thought was given where I left bits…except for the whitish clump in the middle which is roughly at the same length of hair when bought. (2 inches approx) I had to re-charge the batteries several times.this shaving process will take a good couple of hours and do it OUTSIDE!!

I then got one of those orange pump action paint sprayers which holds about 1.5 litres of water from B&Q I think. I added about 3 table spoon fulls of green grass (pale green) from a colour chart in B&Q of water based emulsion paint (don't get anything oily) and then added the 1.5 litres of water and shook well. You don't need much paint….those little tester pots in B&Q are sufficient. This was all done with effectively 3 layers. The first layer was the darker green which looked rather acidic (just visible in a line in the foreground, and looked awful) and I have only now, several months later, made my second attempt with the paler green. The mistake I made was to use too much paint and not enough water. I sprayed it from waist height so there was minimal clumping of paint, leaving a few brown bits. Dried in the sun and left it to dry overnight under cover. Following day rinsed out the bottle and blew out the tubes to ensure no blockages, then put in a yellow/off white mix and sprayed over certain more "fury" areas to depict the longer grass. Do leave some areas brown. This does not need a paint brush. And please please get the "right" shade of green. Many fields in summer are hardly green at all, but more of a pale yellow….with a hint of green.

  • Battery powered clippers.
  • Faux fur. 
  • 4 tester pots of paint. (shades of green/yellow/white) you have the brown already (the fur)
  • Pump action sprayer.
  • Enough outside space.

For 15mm or less, one is better off sticking to felt. Will look better once there are some figures, like these nearly finished A-Hungarians. Based on 1813.